Many homeowners and DIY’ers want to do their own mulching. This is a great way for you to enhance the look of your home. Unfortunately, mulching has changed a lot in the past decades and it is important to know what to watch out for to prevent future problems, but is there a correct way to mulch?
Once upon a time mulch was made a different way. Bark would be removed from trees, then it would be aged, shredded, aged some more, and then shredded again. This would produce a rich, dark fine mulch that was excellent for use around trees, shrubs and household plantings. One of the benefits of this mulch was its ability to breakdown quickly which added excellent organic material to the soils and prevented mulch build-up.
Skipping forward a few decades we now do things very differently. Using only the bark from a tree for mulch proved to be very wasteful and not cost-effective as our country continues to grow and expand. While you can still buy all bark mulch it is available in limited quantities and is quite costly. Modern mulch is much more environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Today mulch is made by shredding not only the bark but the entire tree itself into small pieces that usually vary from 1/2 inch to 2 inches, which changes the correct way to mulch.
This process, while being much more efficient, does not create the mulch that looks as good as traditional bark mulch does. This prompted the introduction of colored dyes into the mulch making process. In addition to traditional brown, introducing dyes into mulch allowed mulch makers to create black, red, shades of brown and cedar color mulch allowing consumers choices in their mulching colors.
While modern mulch brought with it many benefits it also created some new problems. The combination of adding the dye and using the interior parts of the tree means that modern mulch does not break down as quickly as traditional bark mulch. This has led to the problem of mulch build-up. This happens when mulch is applied more than two inches thick on an annual basis. Adding three, four or even more inches of mulch is more than can break down naturally in one season. Continuing to add extra mulch each season at these levels will quickly lead to a layer of mulch that is beyond beneficial and causes a multitude of landscape problems. These include insect, fungus, and rotting problems as well as preventing water from reaching the soil and starving your plants of water.
The correct way to mulch in thin layers. We recommend putting down no more than two inches of mulch annually. The best way to accomplish this is by spreading mulch one forkful at a time. Too often I see people taking a wheelbarrow of mulch and dumping it in their landscape. There is no way to accurately control the depth of the mulch using this technique. Instead fill your wheelbarrow with mulch, take one forkful at a time, and spread it thinly and evenly in your landscape. While this is more time consuming it will be time well spent in the long run.
So get outdoors and work in your landscape. You will enjoy all the benefits that it brings. And as always, if you need any help mulching or with any outdoor solutions, Four Seasons Landscape Management is only a call or click away.